Get out there and garner some political ads

September 11, 2012

By Ken Blum

It’s time for community newspapers to get out there and teach candidates (and those in charge of running campaigns for various ballot issues) how to be “politically correct.”
By this I mean: If a politician wants to get elected, the correct way to do that is to advertise in the local newspaper.
Thankfully, more candidates seem to be learning that lesson. Today, I’m seeing more political ads in community newspapers than I have in the past couple of decades.
Is your newspaper reaping the benefits of this trend?
If not, keep in mind you can’t expect election ads to come walking through the front door of your office. You need to develop a strategy for your own campaign, a campaign to make contact with the candidates and committees in charge of promoting passage of various ballot issues; and to let them know all the benefits of advertising in the local paper.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Of course, the first step is to contact the Board of Elections to get info on all the candidates and issues that will appear on the November ballot. Then some more research is in order to obtain phone numbers, mailing addresses and, if possible, e-mail addresses.
2. Prepare a good letter to send to candidates. The following is one sent along by Maridee Williams, general manager of the Oconee Enterprise of Watkinsville, GA.

Dear_____
Congratulations on qualifying for the office of Oconee Board of Commissioners.
Although you will have many decisions to make over the next few months, one of the most important will be how you attract voters. Of all your advertising media choices, a newspaper serving your community will be the best investment of your hard-earned campaign funds. Here are some facts about newspaper advertising and The Oconee Enterprise you may wish to keep in mind.
• The Oconee Enterprise, a paid community-oriented newspaper, is read an average of 2.16 times per household, according to a readership study by Pulse Research of Portland, OR, and people read it cover to cover including the advertisements (86.5%) and inserts (84%).
• Our readers are professionals (42,1%), have college degrees (50%), are married (79.3%) have incomes in excess of $50,000 (61.5%), own a home (87,4%), are age 30 to 59 (62.2%) and have children (34.8%).
• Studies show that constituents who are regular readers of a newspaper are more informed and more inclined to vote.
• Studies also show that almost half of voters say newspapers are their best source of information on political issues.
• Oconee County consistently has one of the highest voter turnouts in the state (75-85%).
• The Oconee Enterprise is a locally owned business that contributes to the local economy by providing jobs (15 employees), the payment of sales tax, the payment of both real property and personal property taxes, and the payment of its business license. Advertising dollars spent here will support your community, the one you want to represent, by keeping them here.
For candidates who want to reach the voters of Oconee County, The Oconee Enterprise is the best source.
I am enclosing rate information and a planning calendar to help you in your decision-making. I am interested in speaking with you about your upcoming needs and will contact you soon. If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to call me at _____

3. Prepare a colorful brochure that promotes political advertising in newspapers, and your newspaper in particular. Highlight the stats that prove the effectiveness of community newspapers as a political advertising medium.
Don’t forget to promote your website as a place to advertise in combination with the print product. If you offer printing and addressing for direct mail, mention it.
I have a couple of good models for these brochures sent along by readers of my newsletter. If you would like PDF copies, just drop me an e-mail to blummer@aol.com, and I’ll send them out immediately (note—they may be a little fuzzier than the originals because I reduced the size of the PDF to send via e-mail.)
4. Don’t sell single ads; do sell a program of ads. If your newspaper offers contract rates, or any other rate discount, make sure to offer it to the candidate (too many newspapers charge open rates for political ads when lower rates are available to other clients).
Or, offer a special plan—say, $600 and the candidate can choose to run a full-page ad, two, half-page ads, or four, quarter-page ads. Consider process color as part of the deal (if you have sufficient press capacity).
Consider a package that includes both print and website ads. If you run a special section for the election, schedule one of the program ads for that section.
Again, if you would like to see PDFs of brochures that promote advertising in a community paper or its special election section, just drop me an e-mail to blummer@aol.com. © Ken Blum 2012

Ken Blum is the publisher of Butterfly Publications, an advising/speaking/publishing business dedicated to improving the profitability and quality of community newspapers. He puts out a free e-mail newsletter 40 times a year titled Black Inklings. It features nuts and bolts ideas to improve revenue and profits at hometown papers. To subscribe to the newsletter or contact Ken, e-mail him at blummer@aol.com; or phone to 330-682-3416.

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